Just minutes after the final votes were counted at the county courthouse Tuesday, telephones at local retailers began ringing off the hook. Shoppers wanted to know one thing: “When can we buy a beer at your store?”
Some rumors circulating said by Wednesday, just one day after the election, locals could go into at least one local grocer and purchase a six-pack. Others speculated by the end of the week.
Technically, Erath County is not officially wet. According to the Texas Secretary of State’s Web site, legalization will take effect once the election results are canvassed - Erath County Commissioners Court has tentatively set a meeting for Nov. 17.
Carolyn Beck, public information officer for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, said locals will have to wait at least 60 days, possibly longer. Local stores will have to go through the county (if located outside city limits), file legal notices, post intent to sell signs on their doors, and then get licensed by the TABC. Not a short or cheap process, but most retailers agree it will be well worth the investment.
The next question is where can residents buy beer and wine? Again, a barrage of rumors.
No beer at Wal-Mart?
One myth said local Wal-Mart will not be able to sale beer since the store is located next to the junior high. The rumor also said Wal-Mart has already arranged for a new location, outside of school zones. Store Manager Gary Smith said the talk was not true.
Smith explained that the local super center will sell beer and wine at the store’s current location. He said Wal-Mart qualifies for an exception to the law since the store existed prior to the school.
“It is something like a grandfather clause,” Smith said. “Since we purchased the land prior to the school’s establishment, we can apply for a variance.”
And, what about zoning?
Some residents are concerned that zoning will be an issue for retailers within the city limits. What if the city council denies the request of one store and approves another? Betty Chew, director of community development, cleared up that confusion as well.
Chew said retail locations already carry the necessary zoning, and offered a simple analogy to clear things up. She said there is no zoning for milk or cigarettes and the same goes for beer and wine when it comes to sales for off-premise consumption. In addition, she said stores within the city limits will only have to follow the rules and procedures for obtaining proper licensing from the TABC.
But what about Handy Liquor?
According to Jim Basham, owner of the Comanche County liquor store, which has supplied locals with alcoholic beverages for almost four decades, the rumor that he plans to open a Handy Beer in Erath County is also untrue.
Basham said Erath’s decision to go wet will cost his store approximately 65 to 70 percent of its business. He also said he would not be able to afford to compete with local grocers.
“We are lucky that we have been running a good business for the last 40 years,” Basham said. “We appreciate the business Erath County has brought to us over the years.”
Still, Basham remains in good spirits. While his beer and wine sale will drastically decrease, he said he will continue to profit through liquor sales.